FR Clothing + Rotating Equipment = Serious Accident

Apr 3, 2019
eHazard Members:
I am on the Northern California Power Agency safety committee and try to follow up on industry accidents “Lessons Learned” to hopefully prevent similar accidents at our facilities.

Due to an recent severe accident at an adjacent utility Co-gen facility. I have a questions on the following:

Event: Technician performing vibration readings on plant auxiliary equipment. When checking a condensate pump, the technician noticed excessive packing leaks. He removed the guard to access the packing nuts and started to adjust the packing. His long sleeve FR clothing was caught in the rotating shaft of the condensate pump and the employee sustained very serious injuries.

Due to OSHA and NFPA-70E arc flash safety rules, this facility requires employees to wear FR clothing and gloves when working at the facility.

However, this requirement goes against basic rotating machinery safety guidelines to NOT wear rings, watches, long sleeve shirts/coveralls or gloves when working around rotating equipment.


Questions: What does eHazard members recommend for plant personnel PPE when working around rotating machinery?

Any information or comments would be appreciated.

Thank you

Sandy Rainey

Hydro Technical Supervisor

Northern California Power Agency
477 Bret Harte Dr.
Murphys, CA. 95247
(209) 728-1387 ext. 334 Phone
(209) 768-5889 cell
Last edited:

Hugh Hoagland

Staff member
Dec 30, 2016
Louisville, KY
This a sad event. Glad the employee looks like he will recover but this is a complicated issue.

NFPA 70E is often used as a "look up table" standard. The user says, "I have this equipment, so I need this PPE." Simple. This is a "simplistic" understanding of the standard. That is the "easy" way, but historical wisdom has always warned about the 'easy" way. It is fraught with risk. The proper way to apply NFPA 70E to complicated work situations is to use "risk assessment" models like those discussed in a very abbreviated way in Appendix F as adapted from ISO 31000.

NFPA 70E Appendix F.5 is a very short discussion of "Task-Based Risk Assessment". Workers should be trained to use granular knowledge of work situations and company policies should be adaptable enough to address these complicated issues like multiple potential hazards.

If an electrical worker does the type of work you have mentioned in the course of the day, the company and that worker should consider the task with all its risks and adapt company policy for that task. One way would be to use a short sleeved AR shirt/t-shirt for the main daily wear (this would always prevent ignition which saves most of the lives in arc flash events) and to require a long sleeved shirt for tasks that do not put the worker at a risk of rotating machinery. Other options could be to use a removable AR sleeve or a break away sleeve if there is also an arc flash risk present. While complicated, risk assessment is most often not really thought of in policy except in the big picture. A strict policy may be the only option but this incident shows that it can be short sighted.

If there is a rotating machinery hazard AND and arc flash hazard, this is more complicated and suitable remedies will require more than personal worker judgment.

Hope this helps,


Below is one of our ideas for risk assessment that can be a model for companies to train workers to make granular decisions based on adaptable solid policy. The best way would be to have a JSA for each task taking into consideration all the risks and putting that into writing but barring that, workers can have training tools to allow them to make decisions within parameters.